Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Yuval Avnur

Reader 2

Dion Scott-Kakures

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© 2017 Youming Chen


The problem of induction is most famously discussed by David Hume, though he himself has never resorted to the notion of “induction.” As part of Hume’s overall project of identifying the logical fallacy of causal relations, the problem of induction is identified as the problem of “the unobservable matters of fact.“ Hume argues that, as empirical beings, we can believe in two types of knowledge with confidence: relations of ideas and observable matters of facts. We can be certain about the relations of ideas, since by analyzing the relation itself we can come to necessarily true conclusions about such relations. On the other hand, we do not need to question observable matters of fact, since such are the content of our experience, and empirical matters such as “tables” and “chairs” are not subject to truth or falsity: it would be quite meaningless to argue that “it is true that table.” Though our perceptive experience easily invites another interesting philosophical discussion - most famously discusses by Descartes - that is, the external world scepticism, that is not something that this paper would address. Hume’s point, in the end, is to show that when we infer any unobservable matters of fact - that is, inductive inferences - from observable matters of facts, we are committing to a logical fallacy where the true premises of the inference does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion.

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